iPhone X: new Apple smartphone dumps home button for all-screen design
Apple has unveiled the iPhone X, its new radically redesigned smartphone that drops the traditional home button for an all-screen design, as well as new iPhone 8 and iPhone 8Plus models.
Apple’s senior vice president of worldwide marketing, Phil Schiller, took to the stage of the company’s new Steve Jobs Theater situated within the brand new Apple Park“spaceship” headquarters to unveil the new iPhones.
The new $999 (£999 – there is dollar-to-pound parity on the new range of Apple products) iPhone X will come with the company’s new iOS 11 software featuring new on-screen buttons and gestures to replace the standard physical home button, which has been a mainstay of iPhones since the line’s launch in 2007, plus new animated emoji called Animoji.
The iPhone X, pronounced 10, will come in two colours, space grey and silver, and is available for pre-order on 27 October, and shipping by 3 November. A 256GB storage option will also be available for £1,149.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook said: “This is the iPhone X. It’s the biggest leap forward since the original iPhone.”
Instead of pressing a button, users swipe up from the bottom to get to the home screen and swipe and hold to go into multitasking. To wake the device users just tap the screen or lift the iPhone, while the control centre is now accessed by swiping down from top right corner of the phone.
The front of the device features a cutout at the top of the new OLED Super Retina display housing a new True Depth camera system for the Face ID facial recognition system and for taking selfies with Apple’s Portrait Mode. Apple says Face ID is capable of identifying the phone’s owner from a 3D scan of the face in order to unlock the device, authenticate payments and input saved passwords into login screens as well as integrate into third-party apps.
Similar systems have been used by Microsoft for its Windows Hello-capable Surface computer line, but no one has yet cracked the technology on a smartphone. Apple said the system was capable of operating even when the user was wearing glasses, and only unlocks the phone when the user is actively looking at it.
The iPhone X does not include Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint scanner, which was introduced in 2013 under the home button with the iPhone 5S.
But Apple said that its Face ID was more secure than Touch ID by a factor of 20, capable of discerning between the user’s real face and photographs – and even Hollywood-level replica masks – using the True Depth camera system, which projects an IR dot map on to the face to map it. It even works in the dark.
The rest of the device is made from stainless steel and glass, harking back to the design of the iPhone 4, and mirroring that of rival Samsung’s Galaxy S8 but without a curved screen. It marks a striking contrast to recent all-metal iPhone models, and remains to be seen whether it suffers from a similar level of fragility as rival glass-and-metal sandwich smartphones. Apple said the glass was the most durable ever fitted to a smartphone with metal reinforcement. The headphone jack is still gone too.
The iPhone X will have Apple’s latest processor, the A11 Bionic that comes with an integrated Neural Engine for face recognition and now has six cores, up from last year’s A10 with four cores. Apple said that the A11 had 30% faster graphics and was an up to 70% faster processor than the A10, while extending battery life by two hours over the iPhone 7 – a pain point for the majority of current iPhone users.
Apple also introduced Qi wireless charging to the iPhone line for the first time, which uses a a plate within the back of the phone to accept an inductive charge from a pad or a piece of furniture with wireless charging built in. It’s a feature that’s been standard in Samsung’s Galaxy S line of smartphones for the last threeyears and available with several other rivals, and removes the need to fiddle with a power cable to charge your smartphone.
The back of the iPhone X has Apple’s now familiar dual camera system, which debuted on 2016’s iPhone 7 Plus with one wide-angle camera and one “telephoto” camera capable of giving the phone a two-times optical zoom, but oriented vertically rather than horizontally. Both cameras have new 12-megapixel sensors, optical image stabilisation and Apple said that it had improved its computational photography system to produce better, more detailed images.
Part of the improved system is a new version of the company’s Portrait Mode, which allows users to artificially blur the background to create a shallow depth of field, similar to that created by dSLR cameras, and change the lighting effects across the subject’s face. Rivals Samsung and others have also shipped similar features, with inherent flaws around fine detail such as hair. It remains to be seen whether Apple’s system can fix those problems.
Apple also unveiled new animated emoji characters it calls “animoji”, which allow users to map facial expressions on to little characters, such as a robot, fox, unicorn, or anthropomorphised poo using the iPhone X’s facial recognition system. The animoji can only be sent to other Apple users through the company’s Messages app.
Ben Wood, chief of research for CCS Insight said: “The iPhone X is the blueprint for the iPhone’s new hardware direction. An OLED display and the new design is likely to [be] standard on future iPhone models, but Apple must first tackle the challenge of obtaining sufficient supply.
“A staggered introduction of OLED technology and the new design enables Apple to steadily ramp up scale in its supply chain and maximise profits. The relatively high prices of the iPhone X are a necessary and important mechanism to control demand in the near term.”
Alongside the iPhone X, Apple also unveiled two other new smartphones, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, which are essentially updated versions of 2016’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, which were themselves updates of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S lines from 2014 and 2015 respectively.
On the outside the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus has glass on the front and back, with a colour-matched aluminium band around the outside. Apple said that the glass on the back was the “most durable glass on any smartphone”, attempting to assuage fears that the new iPhone would be less durable than the iPhone 7.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus both have Apple’s new A11 Bionic chip, but without the Neural Engine of that fitted to the iPhone X, and come with improved screens with the company’s True Tone feature and improved speakers while keeping its current form with a home button with Touch ID 2 fingerprint scanner. But they lack facial recognition and an all-screen design of the iPhone X.
Schiller said: “This is the first iPhone created for AR. The cameras are individually calibrated in the factory which makes a huge difference for AR, plus AR benefits from the new A11 Bionic chip.”
Apple also added wireless Qi charging like the iPhone X and the latest Bluetooth 5.0 standard, which is expected to become widely used in the next year for headphones and other peripherals.
The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will come in three colours and start at $699/£699 and $799/£799 respectively with 64GB of storage, available for pre-order from 15 September and shipping by 22 September. A 256GB storage option will also available.
Wood said: “The iPhone X and iPhone 8 models are very strong additions to Apple’s portfolio that address increasing competition from Samsung and others. Rivals will be watching how quickly Apple can meet demand for the iPhone X and begin to build margins on a new design with new components.”